Russia accuses US of meddling in its elections

Russia is to hold presidential elections on March


Vladimir Putin

MOSCOW (CNN) - Russia said a U.S. Treasury report that could extend sanctions against Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections is "a direct and obvious attempt" to interfere in its own upcoming presidential vote.

By the end of Monday, the Treasury must send Congress a list of rich Russian business figures and detail their ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

U.S. President Donald Trump reluctantly signed the legislation last August that ordered the report, even though U.S. investigators believe he was the main beneficiary of Russian meddling.

"We do think that this is a direct and obvious attempt to time some sort of action to coincide with our elections in order to influence them," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on a telephone conference call Monday. "We disagree with this, and we are sure this will have no influence."

He said publication of the report "will be analyzed in Moscow, so that our interests and the interests of our companies are guaranteed."

Russia is to hold presidential elections on March 18, a contest that seems certain to result in a win for Russian President Vladimir Putin because of tight constraints against political opponents.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was briefly arrested Sunday during anti-Kremlin demonstrations in Moscow and across Russia and will have to attend a court hearing he wrote on Twitter.

The arrest followed CNN's exclusive interview with Navalny broadcast before the protests in which he accused Putin of widespread corruption.

Peskov said he did not think Navalny was a threat to Putin's power. "Putin's popularity reaches far beyond Russian borders and I don't think anyone can doubt the fact that Putin is an absolute leader in the way he is perceived by the public and an absolute leader of the political Olympus," he said.

"It's unlikely that at this stage there is someone who is serious competition. Putin proved his undeniable leadership on multiple occasions and continues to do that," Peskov added.

Navalny, the best-known opposition figure in Russia, has been barred from running by Russia's electoral commission as he has a conviction for embezzlement, a charge that critics say is politically motivated.

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